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What to expect at the second interview

The good news is that you made it through the first round of interviews – congratulations! You obviously impressed and are a serious contender for the job.

But now you face the hurdle of the second interview. It’s time to seal the deal – you need to know what you’re in for and go armed with a strategy for success.

What’s so different about the second interview?

First interviews are often conducted by an organisation’s hiring manager or HR staff, the ‘gatekeepers’ who screen and shortlist candidates. They ensure that an applicant has the hard skills – the competencies and track record – to do the job and do it well.

Second interviews provide an opportunity for more in-depth exploration of not only a candidate’s skills and experience, but their cultural and motivational fit with an organisation. They often involve different and/or multiple interviewers that can include the new hire’s manager, executive leaders, department heads, other team members – in other words, the key players relevant to the role.

Depending on the position and the organisation, second interviews can also require candidates to do things like give a presentation or undergo psychometric assessments.

Yes, it can be daunting, and you need to be prepared for the reality that the second interview is going to be tougher. Expect more grilling about your ability to do the job and more pointed questions about what you intend to do in the role as well as your career aspirations, as they make their final assessment of whether you’re the right person for the job.

But just remember that if you go in prepared, this is your chance to clinch the deal.

How to prepare for a second interview

The first thing you should do is ask your contact at the company what you should expect at the second interview. They will let you know if you will be facing a panel, if you will be tested or if you need to prepare in a specific way.

In general, these are the things you should do to prepare for a second or final interview:

  • Reflect on the first interview

    Take time to reflect on how well you answered each question in the first interview. Was there anything you forgot to mention or could have answered better? The second interview is your chance to revisit any questions you didn’t feel you answered well the first time and expand on areas you skimmed over.

    For example, if you didn’t feel you adequately addressed the interviewer’s question about your time management skills in the first interview, you could readdress it this way:

    “You asked previously about my time management skills, and while I did mention that my current job involves juggling multiple priorities and projects and requires excellent time management, I didn’t mention that I also use the Pomodoro Technique to make me even more effective. The use of a formal time management technique has helped me to really focus and use my time as productively as possible.”

  • Know your interviewers

    Find out ahead of time who will be attending the second interview and get as much information as you can about them. Ask the recruiter or HR manager for any information, check their profile on the company website and LinkedIn, and know their name and position. This will enable you to anticipate what angle they may take in their questioning so you can plan ahead.

    For instance, let’s say you are interviewing for a role involved in digital transformation of the business, and you know the IT manager will attend the second interview. You can expect to be asked more technical, detailed questions about your expertise and the systems you worked with, and how you would actually approach this challenge at the organisation.

  • Prepare for more in-depth questions

    The second interview is where you’ll probably be asked more in-depth and tricky behavioural questions. You might have been asked some already but go over these again, try to anticipate possible new questions, and try to come up with new and different examples from your past to demonstrate your track record in specific competencies related to the role. Don’t forget that if you’ve already been asked extensive questions about your hard skills, second interview questions might focus more on your soft skills and cultural fit.

  • Go in with a strategy

    The second interview is no longer just a ‘getting to know you’. Now that you’ve had a chance to ask questions and learn more about the role at the first interview, the interviewer(s) may expect you to come with your own ideas for how to solve the challenges the organisation is facing.

    Think as if you were actually in the role: what would be your plan of attack, what would your strategy be for making the organisation’s goals a reality? Being able to articulate a clear, concrete and achievable strategy is one of the surest ways to convince them that you’re exactly what the business needs.

  • Do your homework

    It is becoming increasingly common for second-round candidates to be asked to complete a take-home task or prepare a presentation for the second interview. For example, someone interviewing to be a marketing manager might be given a marketing objective then asked to develop a brief campaign to meet that objective, specifying what kind of content and channels they would use. Similarly, a developer might be given a coding task or asked to test and find glitches in a program.

    If you are asked to do a presentation, make sure your points are crystal clear and give it a little flair. Make it engaging, use visuals, prepare speaking notes and practise presenting so you are able to speak with confidence. When giving your presentation, be sure to make eye contact with everyone in the room.

  • Prepare more questions to ask at the interview

    The second interview is often your last chance to ask questions about the role, the team and organisation, their strategy and expectations – so have your final questions ready. If there’s anything that you’re concerned about (the role or the organisation), now is the time to ask it. See our suggestions for questions to ask in an interview if you feel stumped.

    Since cultural fit is often a big focus in the final interview, it can be good to ask your own questions about the organisation’s culture so you, too, can decide if you’re a good match for the company.

  • Practise your final pitch

    Be prepared to give a persuasive final pitch for why they should give you the job, highlighting why you’re a perfect fit and the best person for the role. This is your last chance! Reiterate your unique selling proposition – what you can do that no one else can.

  • Be prepared to ‘meet the family’

    Just as with the first interview, dress to impress, even if it’s a casual workplace. You will likely be meeting more senior members of the organisation and possibly other team members, so you need to present impeccably.

  • Final tips

    Have your referees’ contact details handy, and bring multiple copies of your resume to hand out to those in attendance, along with any work samples that may help to sway them further.

    At the interview it can also be a good idea to ask for everyone’s business card so you have their contact details. That way you can send a brief thank-you note afterwards to everyone who attended.

    The second interview is still not the place to ask about salary and bonuses unless the interviewer initiates that conversation. You need to have your response about salary expectations ready in case they ask – but otherwise, wait until you get the job offer to raise this. Your focus in the second interview should still be on building your case for why they should hire you. Never assume it’s a ‘done deal’.

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Hudson is a talent solutions company. We help transform the workplace and unleash the full potential of organizations and individuals. Our expert team and assessment tools provide you with unique insights and services that help you maximize your success. Across APAC, we deliver a range of recruitment and talent management solutions to get you and your business where you want to be.